Day Four AIDS 2016: Closing the Gap with a Royal Visit
“Where are the men?” is a frequent refrain in HIV prevention, but on Thursday the AIDS 2016 symposia session, “Engaging Men in Care in HIV Treatment: Closing the Treatment and Survival Gap,” turned the spotlight to men’s participation in treatment. The data show that men living with HIV not only engage in treatment at lower levels than women…they also experience worse outcomes, including a 37% higher likelihood of death than women when on HIV treatment. Panelists at the session focused on strategies to overcome that startling gap, and to more successfully engage and retain men and boys in HIV testing and treatment – a key but often overlooked component of a stronger AIDS response.
Two men definitely not missing from AIDS 2016 on Thursday were Sir Elton John and Prince Harry. Both caused a stir when they strode the halls of the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC), and with their words at the special session they headlined, along with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho and a panel of young people titled “Ending AIDS with the Voices of Youth.” At the session, Prince Harry praised activist organizations such as South Africa’s Treatment Action Group (TAC) and ACT UP, and the courage of countless individuals, including his mother, Princess Diana, for their work to overcome HIV stigma. Sir Elton John recalled the impact of young people such as Ryan White, and 11-year-old Nkosi Johnson, whose speech at AIDS 2000 helped jolt the world into a new approach to antiretroviral treatment (ART) access. “We need the confidence and courage of children to end AIDS,” Sir Elton John stated, eliciting cheers from the capacity crowd. But one of the loudest ovations of the afternoon came when young panelist Loyce Maturu of Zimbabwe reminded the audience that “love has the power to change everything,” and challenged us all to “stop thinking of young people as beneficiaries, and start seeing us as partners in the effort to end AIDS by 2030.”
Biomedical HIV prevention is definitely experiencing a golden age. At the AIDS 2016 symposia session, “The Future of Chemoprophylaxis: New Concepts,” leading PrEP and microbicide researchers including Salim Abdool Karim, Nelly Mugo, Connie Celum, Ian McGowan, and others reviewed the rapid pace of development in oral Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and explored prevention approaches on the horizon such as injectable PrEP, vaginal rings, and rectal and vaginal microbicides. The behavioural and implementation science issues of prevention roll-out and adherence were also prominent on the symposia agenda. As one conference goer noted, “if you can’t get it, you won’t use it, and if you don’t use it, it won’t work!”
The session "Treat Early and Stay Suppressed" looked at the data behind the World Health Organization's (WHO) groundbreaking recommendation to provide ART to all people living with HIV (PLHIV) regardless of CD4 count, and the real-life experience of countries working to make that recommendation a reality. Data from South Africa showed immediate ART eligibility to be associated with lower mortality, improved immune function, and reduced household HIV incidence. The PROMISE study indicated the continuing ART for postpartum women is safe and associated with fewer WHO Stage 2/3 events vs. stopping ART. However, among women not on ART, there was low initial acceptance of early ART after initial counseling. For more details on this and the other sessions from the Thursday programme, visit our daily Rapporteur Summary page.
Finally, nearly 800 media representatives from around the world have been attending and reporting on AIDS 2016 throughout this busy conference week. In addition to showcasing the latest HIV research developments, and providing invaluable opportunities for collaboration, networking and information exchange, the biennial International AIDS Conference also helps keep the global media spotlight trained on HIV. Ensuring that the media dialog on AIDS is constructive and accurate was the focus of the Leadership Workshop, “Responsible Reporting versus Sensationalizing HIV and AIDS in the Media,” which challenged journalists, activists, and scientists to collaborate in ways that “go beyond the headlines” to promote human rights and achieve global health targets.
Look out for the final daily review of AIDS 2016 with highlights from the closing session and the conference overall next week. Thank you to everyone for your participation and see you at the Closing Ceremony on Friday.
For more details and scientific highlights, click here